Considered an indie romantic comedy, director Barra Grant’s Love Hurts is painful viewing for audience members seeking a sappy indulgence. The only tears a movie watcher might shed are from laughter.
The movie stars British actor Richard E. Grant as Ben Bingham, an ear, nose and throat doctor who is oblivious to how his beautiful, nature-loving wife Amanda is withering, not unlike the flowers she tends, as he fails to love and appreciate her.
When she cries, he dismissively states that she is PMS-ing; it is one of several funny moments in the beginning of the film where Ben makes various obtuse comments.
Finally, Amanda, dreading being alone with Ben once their son leaves for college, moves in with her best friend Gloria, played by Camryn Manheim, and starts seeing a buff horticulturist from the South.
When Ben “surprisingly” fails to win Amanda back with a bonsai plant, he resorts to drinking and moping in bed until his son Justin (Johnny Pacar) makes him the most popular single man in town by advising him to get a new haircut and wardrobe. Miraculously, (it’s Hollywood after all) women start falling for him.
He starts seeing his sushi-crazed nurse, his unorthodox Jewish gym trainer and a pair of karaoke-singing twins.
The majority of the laughs come from the montages of Ben dating these women. As he rendezvous with the three women — well, four, but the twins might as well be one person — his son falls in love with a Russian ballerina named Valeriya (newcomer Olga Fonda). Suddenly, Ben has to clean up his act and revisit his past romantic self in order to help his son woo his new love.
Along the way, Amanda notices the man she fell in love with returning.
The plotline, led by the father-son-exchange of how to win women, is the most successful aspect of the film. Director Grant highlights just how dysfunctional their advice to each other is to draw out laughs. In one scene Ben advises Justin to take two fingers and gently run them along Valeriya’s face. He also tells him to mutter nonsense when cradling her face, and suddenly we’re watching two men stroke each other’s cheeks while muttering gibberish.
A nod goes to Pacar, who recently won the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance in Love Hurts at the Orlando Film Festival.
Pacar’s performance makes the film more bearable to watch. His character begins as a magnetic stud with a long list of “friends with benefits” and transforms into a more sensitive man as he pursues a ballerina who does not fall for him as easily as the string of girls who appear throughout the movie desperate for his attention.
Contrasting the fitting casting of Pacar is the casting of Carrie-Anne Moss, which seems awkward and forced, as if producers only considered her recognizable name when giving her the role. Most remembered for her performance as Trinity, the romantic interest of main character Neo from the Matrix trilogy, Moss also starred in the critically acclaimed independent thriller, Memento.
Audience members are left wondering why someone like Moss is playing a character who in her youth wore a jockey strap on her head to make her boyfriend-now-husband Ben laugh.
Justin’s friends Zoe, Trev and Kat, dressed in skinny jeans with dyed hair, high-five Ben throughout the movie as women fall for him. They are all completely unfazed by Ben’s actions, because their parents are separated and sleeping around, too. They manage to successfully capture the current generation growing up in families with divorced parents who don’t believe in love. Although they play apathetic teenagers well, they are very frustrating to watch. From their wardrobe to their overly stereotypical actions (Zoe makes a batch of fudge laced with marijuana), they contrast Justin too much and appear one-dimensional and boring.
A few scenes in the movie warrant solid gut-busters, but it mainly draws chuckles from audience members who grow tired in the middle of the film at the exaggerated stereotypes of many of the characters.
Considering the movie’s low budget, director Grant makes a watchable film. The predictable plot, however, relies too much on the cliché teachings between generations.